Upcoming Undergraduate Seminars (4000 level)

Philosophy Undergraduate Seminars: Winter 2023


Seminar in Contential Philosophy (PHIL 4010)

Slot 32: W 7-930 (Sean McGrath)

The Mystical Basis of German Philosophy: The Concept of Ground, from Eckhart to Heidegger

            The roots of German philosophy, from Leibniz to Heidegger, lie in medieval and Renaissance German mysticism. Mystics like Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) and Jacob Boehme (1575-1674) bequeathed to the German speculative tradition its essential concepts as well as the dialectical logic characteristic of its form of thinking.

As we shall see, the key concept of this tradition, the theme of the whole thing, from Eckhart to Heidegger, is the concept of Grund or ground. This term, which is coined by Eckhart in his vernacular sermons, means at once “reason” (as in the principle of reason, which is translated as “der Satz vom Grunde”), foundation, earth, origin, cause, beginning, abyss, and that which is hidden and innermost or essence.

This course will reconstruct this little known history of philosophy and introduce advanced students in philosophy to the mystical sources of German Idealism, Romanticism, as well as its heirs, psychoanalysis, and existentialism.

The course deals in greater detail than is typical in philosophy with Western religion, particularly with Jewish and Christian monotheism, and the speculative and mystical themes to which these traditions give rise in Germany from the 14th century to the 20th century. Students are expected to deal with these religious themes with the same balance of impartiality and sympathy with which they habitually deal with pagan themes in ancient philosophy. In other words, no one’s religion (or atheism) is on trial here: rather the religious horizon of (Western) modernity is being excavated, and the complexities of Jewish and Christian theology are essential to the story.

Seminar in Ethics (PHIL 4003)

Slot 18: Tues - Thurs 1030-1145

Marxist Social and Political Philosophy:

Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society.

This course will examine the key early work of the 20th c. Greek-French Sartrean-inspired philosopher Castoriadis. The Imaginary Institution of Society shows, as per its title, that social and political institutions are imaginary (for good and bad).

Seminar in Special Topics in Major Authors and Texts (PHIL 4001)  

Slot 13: MW 2-315 (Arthur Sullivan)

The focus of this course will be on AI Ethics, or: applied ethics as it pertains to computational technology that simulates or replicates some aspects of the mind. This field is in constant flux at present, as the relevant technologies are constantly changing. But the importance of these sorts of issues also increases, with every passing day. Governments, legal systems, corporations, etc. are all scrambling to keep up with what is or is not permissible, as engineers and scientists are constantly changing what is possible.

There will be three parts to the course:

Part I: What exactly is AI?

            -some history of attempts to build intelligent machines

            -some core philosophical literature on AI

Part II: AI as Object

            -aka “computer ethics”, ethical issues surrounding the design, creation, and use of AI

            -e.g., surveillance, bias, unemployment, etc.

Part III: AI as Subject

            -aka “robot ethics”, questions about the status of AI itself

            - e.g., Could a robot ever have moral or legal status?